ST PETERSBURG - In an 15,000-square-foot old piano factory two blocks south of Central Avenue lies an assortment of things that aren't made anymore.
Many are boldly colorful, some fragile, but all of the pieces housed in this cavernous space have a story.
Starting Saturday, the public can peruse the eclectic displays housed within Brocante Vintage Market on the first weekend of every month. The setup is similar to a flea market in that it features row upon row of vendors selling often hard-to-find wares. Here, though, the theme is strictly vintage.
"Vintage," of course, can mean a Victorian Era birdhouse topper, a library card catalogue from the '40s or a few pre-Prohibition era beer bottles.
"This is a science lab table that we brought from the Midwest," said Celesta Carter, who runs the market with her husband Sean, as she walked past a teal table sitting amid a cluster of refurbished furniture.
"There's everything from mid-century to vintage-retro to more industrial, to polished vintage items. So it's really a big mix of vintage things."
Carter said she got the idea for the market after seeing similar places in other cities.
"Part of our passion for vintage and salvaged goods has taken us across the country," she said.
The couple owns Paper Street Market, a shop on Central Avenue that sells antiques and vintage goods. They have periodically hosted an event called the Junker's Ball, where they let vendors set up shop along the sidewalk in front of the store and that of Buffalo Gal Vintage, which closed in March. Carter said people were constantly asking her if the shop could sell their stuff on consignment, but there wasn't enough space.
In the spring, with their storage warehouse near 22nd Avenue North and Interstate 275 becoming too small, the Carters moved to the old piano factory, which is in the burgeoning Warehouse Arts District. There was more than enough space for retail, so the Carters spent the next few months developing the concept of Brocante, which means "secondhand" in French.
Vendors, which are called Brocanteurs, go through an application process. Their inventory can date back 50 or 100 years, but it has to be old, and it has to be high-quality. The Carters have dozens of vendors lined up already.
"It's not a flea market, per se," Carter said. "It is a really good selection of goods, and that has all been thoroughly planned out."
Vendors can rent spaces for as long as they wish, so they don't have to lug heavy furniture to and from the site every month.
Vendor Sarah Evans was one of the first Brocanteurs to snatch up a space at the market.
"My concept is kind of a nautical, western, coastal cowgirl type of deal," she said.
Evans was the one with the old bottles.
"On a recent picking trip I was able to get a lot of beer bottles from Baltimore, and they're pre-Prohibition Era," she said. "So that's pretty cool. I like them for their color."
She also has stocked her space with nautical floats, antique horseshoes and a green wire bin that was once used to store ingredients at a Nestle plant.
Demand for vintage items lets her sell her wares full-time, but this is the only opportunity in Florida where she and other vendors can have a permanent space to showcase her goods, Evans said.
"I think this is really a unique opportunity for people like myself because everybody here has a unique spin," she said. "There's a real demand for this because of the economy and because of shows that are on HGTV people are thinking about vintage and about repurposing."
The market, which is at 2200 Second Ave. S., is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.